Pittsburgh Renaissance Festival makes history fascinating and fun
For six weekends, Aug. 18 to Sept. 23, the Pittsburgh Renaissance Festival will take visitors back to 16th century England, in a fantasy kingdom filled with combat jousting, games of skill, authentically costumed performers providing nonstop entertainment, traditional food and master artisans exhibiting fine arts and crafts.
If only high school history class was this much fun.
Scott Walton of Blairsville is back for his second season as King Henry VIII, alongside his wife, Queen Anne Boleyn (Anne Rematt of Monroeville), a couple in a marriage that historically doesn’t end well for the queen.
This is Walton’s 10th year with the Renaissance Festival, where he actually proposed to his real-life wife — Heather Walton, also a cast member — on the jousting field in 2001.
A magical place
“So the festival still holds a very special place in my heart,” Walton says.
“Our goal at the festival is to provide a magical place for adults as well as children to escape from the outside world, even for a short time, and enjoy laughter and excitement that comes from a different time.”
“We want people to feel like they’re entering an actual village, with toymakers, actors, rag-mongers and a king and queen,” he adds.
Walton didn’t plan on being an actor, having graduated from Greensburg Salem High School and the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown with an accounting degree.
“I did that for two years and hated it,” he says.
Bitten by acting bug
He moved on to managing hotels for 14 years. He credits his first role as Athos in “Three Musketeers” with Greensburg Civic Theatre for sparking his love of theater.
Since then he has performed in 19 productions, from playing El Gallo in “The Fantasticks” at Geyer Performing Arts Center in Scottdale to his “dream role” of King Arthur in Monty Python’s “Spamalot.”
He also has been an extra in movies and television, such as “Southpaw,” “The Fault in Our Stars” and currently in “One Dollar.”
His day job is with a company, Service and Access Management, which enables him to use his improv acting skills in a more serious manner.
“We set up worst-case scenarios for social workers that go on home visits and help them recognize dangerous situations they can get into, while providing a learning environment for them to learn to help keep them safe in the field,” he says.
For the next six weeks, Walton will don his king costume – including a gold crown handmade in Ukraine that he found online – and become King Henry VIII, offering a royal welcome to Renaissance Festival guests.
Susan Treadwell, site director, says this year’s festival features new entertainment, including a belly dancing group, Silks and Swords, and Wilsome, a fire performer offering “extraordinary feats of fire manipulation.”
Audiences also can see returning favorite, The Great Rondini, Escape Artist Extraordinaire. Other returning performers include Cast in Bronze, The Craic Show, Washing Well Wenches and The German Brothers.
Royal festival fare
Treadwell says four royal kitchens, a coffee shoppe, bakery and four pubs will offer traditional Renaissance favorites, including smoked turkey legs, steak on a stake, soup in a fresh bread bowl, fish and chips and more.
Aug. 18-19: Opening weekend, An Adventure to the Past, King Henry and Queen Anne arrive at the castle. Buy-one-get-one-free admission with a coupon from Wendy’s restaurants.
Aug. 25-26 : Celtic Fling, Celtic musicians, Scottish pipe bands and madrigal singers, Men in Kilts contest at 2:30 p.m., “Think You Can Jig” dance contest at 4:30 p.m. on the Rose Stage.
Sept. 1, 2 and 3: Children’s weekend, children ages 12 and under admitted free with paying adult; Princess, Prince and Pirates costume contest for children; union members receive a buy-one-get-one-free adult ticket with valid identification.
Sept. 8-9: Wine Revelry Weekend, grape stomp competition, sample and purchase from three local wineries.
Sept. 15-16: Pirate Invasion and Military Appreciation Weekend, Mr.-Mrs. Caribbean Pirate Contest at 2:30 p.m.; buy-one-get-one-free adult (and free to their children under 12) with an active, retired or veterans military ID.
Sept. 22-23: Final weekend, Oktoberfest, stein lugging contest, Traditional German music, dancing and foods.
Candy Williams is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.